ThinkStock
ThinkStock

11 Features You No Longer See in Cars

ThinkStock
ThinkStock

It’s hard to picture what today’s teenagers will wax nostalgic about 30 years from now when they reminisce about their first car. (It still required gasoline, perhaps?) Who knows how automobiles will change in the future; what we do know is how different they are today from 30 or more years ago. If you fondly remember being surrounded by two or three tons of solid Detroit steel with a whip antenna on the front from which you could tie a raccoon tail or adorn with an orange Union 76 ball, and enough leg room that you didn’t suffer from phlebitis on long road trips, then you might also miss a few of these.

1. Bench Seats


The last American production model car to offer a bench seat in the front, the Chevy Impala, will cease doing so after this year. Back before seat belts were even included in cars—much less mandatory to wear—three passengers could fit comfortably in the front of most cars, or four if one was a child or a skinny relative. Many sly males took advantage of the seat design while driving with a female companion; a quick, unexpected sharp turn made with his right arm resting on the seat back sent the lady sliding right into his embrace.

2. Tailfins

Thinkstock

Tailfins were the brainchild of General Motors design chief Harley Earl. The first fins appeared on the 1948 Cadillac, inspired by the WWII Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane. By the late 1950s, most folks had shrugged off the war and were fixated instead on all things space-age. Tailfins grew to enormous proportions, giving cars a futuristic look.

3. Ashtrays

Thinkstock

Ashtrays were commonly found in the dashboard (along with an electric lighter), mounted on the back of the front seat, and in the armrests on opposite sides of the back seat. Even if you weren’t a smoker, the tray in the dash was handy for storing coins, and the rear ones were handy receptacles for candy wrappers and discarded chewing gum. If you want an ashtray in your new car, ask for the Smoker's Package.

4. Spacious Trunks

Back in the good old days you could easily fit a week’s worth of groceries, the spare tire, and a Mafia snitch in the trunk and still have room for that old TV set with the blown picture tube you’ve been meaning to take to the repair shop. Today (unless you're buying a minivan), you're lucky to get 20 cubic feet of space (2013 Ford Taurus) in your sedan. According to measurements in an issue of Popular Mechanics, the 1961 models of the Buick Special (25.5 cubic feet), Chrysler Newport (33 cubic feet), DeSoto (32.8 cubic feet), and Ford Galaxie (30.5 cubic feet) all had bigger trunk space. (Special thanks to our friends at PopMech for digging up these numbers for us!)

5. Full-Size Spare Tire

Thinkstock

The advantage with a full-size spare was that you could put it on, stow the flat tire in your trunk, and go on your merry way with no particular urgency to get it repaired (unlike today’s donuts, which are designed to be used for limited distances at speeds under 50 miles per hour). The disadvantage was that sometimes you went on your merry way for many months … until one day you got another puncture, only to discover that the tire in your trunk was just as flat as the one on the axle.

6. Floor-Mounted Dimmer Switch

Maybe my reflexes are dulling as I grow older, but I have a hard time figuring out where the switch for the high beams among all the levers and buttons on today’s vehicles. In the old days, it was a button in the general vicinity left of the brake pedal, so even in an unfamiliar car all you had to do was tap around with your toe a few times to find it.

7. Vent Windows

Thinkstock

Vent or “wing” windows were popular in the pre-air conditioning era of automotive manufacturing. But they were convenient for many purposes that are still valid today. For example, on those days when it’s temperate enough to open windows rather than run the A/C, the vent windows allowed air to circulate freely without blowing street grime in your face and messing your hair. Smokers also appreciated being able to flick their ashes out the “no-draft” without the fear of them flying back inside the vehicle.

8. Horn Rings

Thinkstock

Horn rings were originally considered a safety feature as well as a convenience device. Previously, the driver had to completely remove one hand from the steering wheel to depress the button in the center to honk the horn. The horn ring was designed so that both hands could remain on the wheel and just a stretch of a finger or thumb would be able to beep a warning sound. As driver side airbags started entering the market, horn activation was relocated to a button in the steering wheel spokes.

9. Audible Turn Signals

How many fewer drivers would drive for miles and miles with their turn signal flashing if the indicators still made an audible noise as they blinked? In the old days, the sound was more of a tinka-tinka high-pitched tone, but even this late '90s audible click might keep a few folks from appearing to be making their way around the world to the left.

10. “Suicide” Doors

Rear-hinged doors got their macabre name in the pre-seat belt era; if such a door wasn’t closed tight while the car was in motion, the road wind would fling it wide open and the passenger would most likely be tossed to the pavement. But they were popular for quite a while up until the 1960s because of the convenience—there was no pillar separating the front and back seats when both side doors were opened, so there was plenty of room to daintily climb inside (especially in a time when women regularly wore dresses and high heels).

11. Control Knobs

Thinkstock

Texting and driving is certainly dangerous, but what about having to read a touch-screen or take your eyes from the road to find the tiny button that controls your defroster/radio station/air conditioning? How much easier it used to be with nice, solid knobs and levers that you either pulled, pushed, slid or twirled, and which were always pretty much in the same place in every car? You could keep your eyes on the road and somehow your right hand instinctively knew which knob was the radio volume and how far to slide the lever to get more heat.

Tell us about your automotive memories, from riding backwards in the rearmost seat of the family station wagon to listening to Frampton Comes Alive on the 8-track player to having a separate key for the trunk!

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State
iStock
iStock

There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
PlayNJ
nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer
iStock
iStock

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios